The scant memories Shea Stewart has of the car crash that nearly broke her in two have been fleshed out and stitched together with help from others. She knows that her brakes failed and that she spun off the road and crashed into a tree mostly because people told her these things, not because she remembers them.
Her month at Vanderbilt Medical Center isn’t much clearer. She recalls speaking to visitors but not their conversations.
“I was so sedated,” she said recently. “It’s weird to know that I don’t remember a whole month of my life.”
So come May 19, Shea, a talkative, easy-going teen with a bright smile, will want to remember every detail of her graduation night. She counts it as a miracle that she can even attend, and in one of those “everything-has-a-silver-lining” twists, she will share it with the one person she would most like to share it with – all because of the wreck and not despite of it.
In what figures to be the most poignant moment in an evening full of them, Shea’s brother, Lawson, a 2016 HHS graduate, will help her cross the stage in a wheelchair so she can receive her diploma with her classmates.
“It made me more than happy to know that my brother was going to be with me because Lawson and I are extremely close,” she said. “He’s my brother but he’s also my best friend - he’s always been, even when we fight. He’s been through everything with me.”
When Lawson learned of the crash, he rushed to the hospital from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
“He never cries,” Shea said, “but when he came to the hospital he cried because he was so worried. It was the first time we’d seen him cry.”
“My mom stayed with me most nights because I asked for her a lot, but the other person I asked for a lot was Lawson,” she added. “I can remember wanting him in the hospital when he was back at school.”
Although Shea should make a full recovery, it could take three to six months for her to walk on her own. She will essentially have to learn to walk all over again. “They said it will be difficult and probably painful at first, but they want to build up muscle because I lost a lot of muscle.”
What she didn’t lose was optimism. Despite all she has been through (not to mention the disappointment of scrapping plans to study at the University of Mississippi so she can stay closer to home), Shea discusses the Feb. 24 crash as if she had sprained an ankle and had to sit out a soccer game:
- Yes, her injuries were extensive and severe and include a broken pelvis, detached sacrum, broken forearm, broken wrist, broken jaw, and lacerations to her spleen, aorta, liver, and kidney.
- No, she doesn’t know why the brakes on her 2003 Chevy Malibu failed. They had recently been checked by a mechanic and looked fine, though there was a problem with the car’s air conditioning compressor.
- Yes, she is relieved that her passenger and friend, HHS senior Paige Lemley, escaped unhurt. Shea credits Paige with helping save her life. “When the car started to spin, I passed out and went limp and she pulled my upper body over onto her lap” … the driver’s seat was shoved up to the steering wheel, up against the windshield, “but my upper body was on Paige’s lap.”
- No, she really doesn’t remember anything about the crash, which happened on Interstate 40 as they were on their way to Memphis for a lacrosse tournament. “The last thing I remember was picking Paige up at her house. She filled me in on the rest.”
- And yes, she does think they survived by an act of God. “The LifeFlight team that came to get me actually said they almost didn’t take me because a lot of the time they see accidents like this and they pass away on the flight or on the side of the road. My spleen was so bad they were afraid I would bleed out. Everyone said it was a blessing. They said they had never seen anything like it.”
But then they had probably never seen anyone like Shea.
The idea senior Laundon Coleman had for her art assignment was to capture a moment from her childhood, something whimsical and nostalgic that would make her smile when she thought of it.
So she rifled through her memory the way we might when we hear an old song, and she thought of a trip to the Nashville Zoo’s petting farm with her little brother Haven, who was 3 or 4 at the time.
It was summertime and the place smelled of manure and straw. The goats were bleating like crazy, and the kids were sticking their hands out to feed them. Then it happened: a little white goat bound up onto Haven’s chest and he embraced it like it was a family pet - his head down, his eyes closed, his face a picture of joy.
Laundon seized that moment from her mind's eye to create “At the Petting Zoo,” a collage that won first-place in the HHS Art Show last week. A purple ribbon for “Best of Show” was still pinned to the easel Friday.
A confident young woman with a wave of dark hair, Laundon said the image caught the mood she was looking for while freezing a memory of her brother, who will be starting high school next year.
“It’s nice to think back,” she said, gazing over the work as though it were a picture in a photo album. “Now I’m seeing my brother slowly growing up and getting taller than me. I look at this and think, ‘I remember when I could pick you up.’”
Her piece is crafted from cardboard, pen, paint, and newspaper. The cardboard backing has ridges carved into it with a razor knife, giving it a texture like the trunk of an old tree; the newspaper is cut into a dozen bubble shapes of varying size pasted around the image of the plaid-shirted, tousled-haired Haven hugging the goat.
“I thought the newspaper was a good idea because it’s something that is always there, like memories,” she explained.
The bubbles were also deliberate: “Bubbles and children go together. It implies a playful time.”
Laundon, 18, started the piece in October or November and finished about a month later. She recently entered it into a Belmont Collage art show and won first-place in the mixed-media category.
This run of success is sweet for the senior, who has been drawing and creating since she was old enough to grip a marker. After HHS, she plans to spend a year at Middle Tennessee State for some basic coursework and then transfer to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she has already been accepted.
Whatever happens from there, “At the Petting Zoo” will always be special to her – and to her family.
“When my mother saw it, she was like, ‘I’m keeping this.’”
Good teachers are usually good learners, and this year's HHS Teacher of the Year, Jessica de Araujo, is no exception.
Ms. Jorge, as she is known to students in her Spanish classes, has learned a lot about herself since arriving at Hendersonville High in 2005.
“When I first started, I didn’t really think I was tough enough to be patient with students and focus on the important things in my classroom,” recalled Jorge, a petite brunette who, at 5-feet-2, is shorter than most of her students.
“But the longer I’ve been teaching the more I realize that it’s really about the relationship with students,” she said. “If I can’t establish that and be authentic with them and be who I am in front of them, then they will see that quickly.”
Jorge is no 8-to-3 teacher. She is head of the Foreign Language Department and co-chair of the AP Committee. She sponsors the Spanish Club, the Spanish National Honors Society, the HHS Climate Change Committee, and the Young Women’s Study Group. It is common to see her in the halls with her 5-year-old son and 2-year old daughter while the janitors are mopping the floors.
“She’s very dedicated,” remarked Debbie Sheets, coordinator of HHS’s STARS counseling program. “Not only is she a good teacher, but the students feel comfortable going to her to talk about their problems.”
Science teacher Phil Colling added, “She genuinely loves this place and the kids.”
The HHS faculty chose Jorge for the honor: a clear sign she has the respect of her peers.
“She represents the school well and goes the extra mile,” said Principal Bob Cotter. “The faculty made a great decision.”
The honor isn’t lost on students, either.
“She is always there for all of her students, and I am incredibly thankful I have her as a teacher and as a role model,” said junior Paula Alvarez.
Jorge is humbled by the attention. She said she could happily be a full-time student because she enjoys being at school that much.
“I guess you could call me a nerd,” she quipped.
Article by Kevin Maravilla
Summer Reading 2017-18*
HHS English Dept.
English I (All Levels): Lord of the Flies by William Golding
World Studies: Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Additional summer assignments will be given at the parent meeting in early May. See Mrs. Watts or Mrs. Elmore with questions.
English II (Honors and Standard): The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Advanced Honors English II: How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, and A Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins. Please see Mr. Gilbert for additional summer assignments.
English III (Standard): In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
English III (Honors): In Cold Blood by Truman Capote and How to Read Literature like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster
AP English Language: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, The Crucible by Arthur Miller. Please see Mrs. Watts for additional summer assignments.
English IV (Honors): The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
English IV (Standard): The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
AP English Literature: Please see Mrs. Sims for summer assignments.
*Students should complete all reading and assignments by the first day of their English classes. World Studies will have additional assignments due at Golden Opportunity. No exceptions!
Senior Timeline - 2017
April 21 Prom 8:00 pm -12 am @ HHS
May 3 Senior Meeting – 9:25 am Auditorium
May 7 National Honor Society Graduation/Induction
May 8 Black and Gold Day – Spring Football Game
May 9 Wear Gold in Honor of our Seniors
Fill out Memory Sheets during Lunch
May 10 Senior Breakfast Cafeteria @ 7:15
Pick up Yearbooks during Lunch
Wear College Shirt Day
May 11 Awards Day @ 8:30 in Gym – Parents are Welcome
May 12 Seniors watch Senior Video in Auditorium 8:00
Senior Assembly @ 8:15 in Gym-seniors dress up
Senior Parents may watch video immediately following
Senior Assembly in the Auditorium
Senior Picnic @ Rockland Park approximately 11:00
May 14 Senior Baccalaureate @ 2:00 First Baptist Church
Seniors arrive at 1:30 – wear cap and gown
May 15 Senior Exams 1st and 2nd Blocks
May 16 Senior Exams 3rd and 4th Blocks
May 19 Graduation Practice 1:00 pm on Track
Graduates report to the Gym 5:00 pm
Graduation begins at 6:00 pm after graduation report
to cafeteria to pick up diploma.
SENIORS WHO ARE PLANNING TO ATTEND COLLEGE MUST COMPLETE A FINAL TRANSCRIPT REQUEST FORM SO THAT YOUR FINAL GRADES MAY BE SENT TO YOUR COLLEGE OR UNIVERSITY. THE FORMS ARE IN THE COUNSELING OFFICE AND THERE IS A $3.00 CHARGE TO HAVE IT SENT. FINAL TRANSCRIPTS ARE REQUIRED BY COLLEGES AND CANNOT BE SENT UNTIL YOU MAKE THE REQUEST.